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Burn Awareness Week: Types and Severity of Burns


When it comes to burn injuries, there are various types and differing levels of severity. No matter the cause of a burn, they are categorized as first, second, third, of fourth degree burn. The severity is determined based on how many layers of skin and tissue are burned.

Less serious burns occur while performing daily activities and can transpire from hot water, curling irons, stoves, etc. Less severe burns can simply be treated through home remedies. More severe burns may injure the skin and damage other parts of the body such as muscles, blood vessels, nerves, lungs, and eyes. Severe burns require immediate medical treatment.

Common Types of Burns

  • Heat Burns – Heat burns are caused by fire, steam, hot objects, or hot liquids. Scald burns from hot liquids is the most common type of burn.
  • Cold Temperature Burns – Cold temperature burns occur due to skin exposure to wet, windy, or cold conditions.
  • Electrical Burns – Electrical burns caused by contact with electrical sources or lightning.
  • Chemical Burns – Chemical burns caused by contact with household or industrial chemicals in the form of a liquid, solid, or gas.
  • Radiation Burns – Radiation burns from the sun, tanning booths, sunlamps, X-rays, or radiation therapy for cancer treatments.
  • Friction Burns – Friction burns from hard surfaces. Typically, both a scrape and heat burn.

Identifying the Severity of a Burn

  • First-Degree Burns: Considered mild compared to other burns, but can still be painful. They result in pain and reddening of the out-layer of skin called the epidermis.
  • Second-Degree Burns: Also referred to as partial thickness burns, second-degree burns affect the epidermis and the dermis (the lower layer of skin). Second-degree burns are generally characterized by swelling and blistering in addition to pain and redness.
  • ThirdDegree Burns: Third-degree burns are referred to as full thickness burns as they pass through the dermis and affect deeper tissues. Third-degree burns result in white or blackened, charred skin that may be numb. The numbness is causes by nerve damage.
  • Fourth-Degree Burns: These burns extend past the skin to the muscle, ligaments, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, and bones. Fourth degree burns are result in extreme damage and always requiring medical treatment.

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